“A catastrophe”. During the apostolic journey to Africa, Pope Francis did not mince his words in describing a scenario in which the world might find itself if “private interests” were to prevail on global needs, making thus Cop21 in Paris fail. At stake there is the future of the Earth, a planet the Providence has given us to make it become our “common home”. A question that has become topical again also due to the controversial screening of “Fiat Lux” on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica on the occasion of the opening of the Jubilee.
Vast oceans and snowy mountain chains as well as animal and plant species have adapted over the centuries to different habitats, changing their morphology and habits. These beauties and splendours have been kept intact over millennia thanks to a fragile equilibrium. This lewd pursuit of progress of the last century is likely to compromise. We look at the toxic cloud over Beijing, the immense island of rubbish floating on the water of the Pacific Ocean, and the landfills hidden underground and we understand where the destructive madness of Man can lead. The only living beings who bends the ecosystem to his will instead of using it wisely for everyone’s good. A slap in the face of the Created.
To remedy errors and horrors committed in Paris we are running against time. But the draft agreement drawn up in the last few hours leaves open the most important question: global warming. If confirmed at the time of signing, this gap in Cop21 would simply beat the air and reduce the possibility of not going beyond the point of no return. What separates us from the end of the world, as far as we know, is an almost infinitesimal increase of temperature by the end of the century: 1 or 2 degrees. Remaining below this threshold, according to scientists, is crucial to the countries that are more vulnerable to climate change. The two scenarios were delineated by the international team of experts in Climate Analytics, according to which, generally speaking above 1-5 degrees the devastating impact will grow tragically, especially in the tropical and subtropical regions. To keep temperature below this value, on the other hand, developed and emerging States must make more efforts. The same States should provide resources – and this is another knot that needs to be dissolved – to help the most vulnerable and poor areas of the Earth to put in place measures for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.
In the network of the interests at stake, the researchers of Climate Analytics tried to clarify the differences between 1.5 and 2 degrees. Explaining that heat waves, for instance, would last a month and a half instead of one month in the world, and three months instead of two in the tropical strips. Between 1.5 and 2 degrees, they explicated, falls the shift “from events that are on the brink of the current natural variability to a new climate regime”. A bit like in our body going from 36° to 37° is a symptom of a disease. Also the periods of drought would grow, while the availability of water would decrease also in the Mediterranean zone. This would be a hard blow to agriculture.
Half of the world areas where earth is being cultivated, the yields of wheat, rice, corn and soybeans are expected to decline proportionally to the rise of the planet’s fever. The worst consequences will affect the tropical regions such as west Africa, southeast Asia and South America. With temperatures at +2 degrees, “virtually all the tropical coral reefs which protect the coasts will run the risk of serious degradation”. And towns and cities on the coast need this protection because with one and a half degrees more, sea levels would rise of 40 centimetres, whereas with two degrees more, they would rise of half a meter. Those 10 centimetres, in some parts of the globe, mean the difference between remaining in their homes or having to abandon them because they will be underwater. This is the reason why the island States of the Pacific and the Caribbean areas are fighting on the frontline in Paris to establish the threshold at 1.5 degrees, a goal shared also by Italy and confirmed by the minister of the Environment, Gian Luca Galletti.
What makes this scenario further more worrying are the results of a study published last May in the periodical Science. If temperature growth continues at the current pace, explains this research, one plants and animal species out of six (16%) could become extinct by 2100. The areas of the planet that are most at risk are those where at the moment, biodiversity is richer: South America, Australia and New Zealand. In general, according to the scientific periodical, if greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled and reduced, there will be a growth of 4.3 degrees compared to the pre-industrial age (i.e. the end of the XIX century). And the most beautiful things this wonderful planet made us fall in love with will run the risk of disappearing forever.